Spotlight Exclusives

Supporting American Workers Means Supporting Latinos

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

The success of American Latino workers and the overall health of the US economy are inextricably linked. This idea was a central theme in “Drivers of Opportunity,” an Aspen Institute event held Wednesday that explored how Latinos “will shape the future of the American Dream.”

Currently, Hispanics make up roughly 18 percent of the US population, a figure that is expected to grow to close to 30 percent over the next 40 years. And while Latinos have made strong progress in recent decades across indicators such as high school graduation rate and rates of new business creation, significant challenges persist.

The unemployment rate remains higher among Latinos (5.0 percent) than the general population (4.1 percent). And when compared to their white male counterparts, Latino men and women earn only 69 cents and 54 cents on the dollar, respectively.

Panelists — including leading Latino policymakers, business leaders, and academics — identified a number of challenges faced by Latino workers, including a lack of access to education and training, a concentration of Latino workers in lower-wage industries, and fewer opportunities for entrepreneurs to access capital.

Several speakers argued that the fate of Latino workers is closely linked to the future of the US economy, in part because they make up a growing share of the workforce, but also because many of the challenges Latinos face are indicative of systemic problems facing the broader economy.

Marie Mora, professor of economics at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, explained that because “the jobs of the future are likely to be skill-intensive,” Latinos will be among many groups of workers who will struggle to remain competitive without higher rates of educational achievement.

Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab, added that Latino workers can be thought of as the “the original gig workers” in that they are “often paid in terms of increment of product or minutes rather than thought of as key drivers of the economy with a shared fate with capital and business.”

Rojas emphasized that the economy is the clear number one issue for Latino Americans, and that the more policymakers can “offer real tangible solutions to [their] economic needs, the more our economy will be able to meet the needs of all workers.”

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